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We could all use some good news, especially as it relates to our work+life fit.  I’ve spent the last few weeks traveling the country delivering one simple message to a diverse group of business leaders, employees, academics and government leaders:  Now more than ever, work+life flexibility is a core strategic lever with broad bottom line impact that allows organizations to not only survive the recession but thrive by:

  • Controlling or reducing costs in many operational areas,
  • Working better and smarter,
  • Providing better customer service across time zones,
  • Helping all employees manage their work+life fit to bring the best of themselves to a tough work reality,
  • Managing talent and headcount (e.g. creative downsizing) and
  • Continuing environmental sustainability efforts.

For more information about the business applications I’ve been discussing, check out the blog post I did for the Sloan Work and Family Network blog.

The good news is that the response to this message from all groups has been overwhelmingly positive.  This, in spite of the fact, that many of the leaders admitted later they’d arrived skeptical.  They believed that work+life flexibility might be a "perk" or nice thing to do that they could no longer afford.  What they heard changed their mind.

And individuals confessed that they arrived thinking all was lost with regard to their work+life fit until the economy turned around.  But hearing how to frame their case for flexibility as a win for them personally, but also as a way to benefit the business in the recession gave them hope.  It wasn’t just about helping them manage their work+life fit. But how could their flexibility cut costs, service clients better, and help them work smarter?

Flexibly rethinking the way work is done, how life is managed, and business is run addresses many challenges facing organizations in a world where rapid change is the only constant.  The innovative application of telecommuting, flexible scheduling, reduced schedules, compressed workweeks, and contract workers is an effective way to achieve diverse business outcomes.

The fact is, however, that the initial response of many leaders and organizations will be that flexibility is an unaffordable "perk" they can no longer afford.  But the economic downturn offers a unique opportunity to challenge their thinking, because change only happens when there’s either a compelling vision of the future or overwhelming pain.  Right now there’s a lot of pain, so my goal is to switch focus onto the untapped possibilities that strategic work+life flexibility offers businesses and individuals.

Work life flexibility is much more than a "nice thing to do," or the "right thing to do."  It’s a strategic lever that addresses a broad range of business challenges that are particularly relevant in the current environment.  Today, it’s the recession.  Two years from now, it will be something else.  Increasingly rapid change is the only constant.  The most adaptable and flexible organizations and individuals will not only survive, but thrive.  Let’s start now.  Unfortunately, I only reached 600 people in my travels so help me spread the word!

What do you think?  Share your stories about how strategic work+life flexibility is helping your run your business and manage your work+life fit differently in this recession.